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Huffman willing to run through walls to earn job

Journeyman aiming to make Opening Day roster; Tigers lose Labourt to Reds
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Chad Huffman received a few text messages after crashing head-first into the right-field fence at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday. Highlight catches in televised Spring Training games will draw attention.

"That guy broke a wall [Wednesday]," Tigers teammate John Hicks joked. "He ran through it."

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Chad Huffman received a few text messages after crashing head-first into the right-field fence at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday. Highlight catches in televised Spring Training games will draw attention.

"That guy broke a wall [Wednesday]," Tigers teammate John Hicks joked. "He ran through it."

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It should not be a surprise. After toiling seven years between Major League hits, including two years in Japan and Triple-A stints in six organizations, the 32-year-old Huffman has shown the lengths to which he'll go to pursue his baseball aspirations.

"I'm ready to do whatever [manager Ron Gardenhire] wants me to do," Huffman said. "If he wants me to go catch, anything, I'll do it."

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As a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder and first baseman, Huffman faces a difficult fit on a Tigers roster that leans right-handed and could use lefty bats off the bench. But he'll make his case.

Huffman is in his second stint in the Tigers' organization. He spent the 2016 season at Triple-A Toledo -- batting .286 (123-for-430) with 33 doubles, 17 homers, 70 RBIs and an .892 OPS -- but never made it to Detroit. He signed a Minor League deal with the Cardinals at season's end and got a midseason call to St. Louis, where he went 4-for-14 in 12 games.

His first hit as a Cardinal, a triple on June 13, came seven years after his last big league hit for the Yankees in 2010.

Video: DET@PHI: Huffman drives a homer to left

"I'd be lying to say you never get frustrated," Huffman said. "But if you focus on being frustrated, you're not getting better. Just like anything in life, if you're focused on the negative things, you're not progressing. So I tried to do the best I could at just day to day, coming out and enjoying the game. At the end of the day, you only play so long, and when it's over, it's over. So you give everything you've got. You realize how special it is to be in a Major League locker room and to be able to just put on a uniform and go play."

Tigers lose Labourt to Reds

The Reds claimed Jairo Labourt off waivers Friday, plucking the lefty reliever out of the Tigers' organization after Detroit designated him for assignment last week.

Detroit removed Labourt from its 40-man roster to make room for Francisco Liriano, who signed a one-year Major League contract. Labourt ranked 13th on MLB Pipeline's list of Tigers prospects, making the move somewhat of a surprise and raising expectations he'd be claimed.

Labourt, who turns 24 next week, made his Major League debut with the Tigers last September, completing a rise through the organization that began at Class A Advanced Lakeland last April. He allowed three runs on four hits in six big league games, walking seven and striking out four. The strong-armed southpaw has battled command for much of his pro career.

Injury updates

Blaine Hardy played catch Friday for the first time since receiving a cortisone injection in his sore left shoulder, Gardenhire said. He'll likely throw long-toss to stretch his arm Saturday before potentially rejoining the Tigers' bullpen mix next week.

Francisco Liriano, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury this week, threw a bullpen session Friday.

"He's fine," Gardenhire said. "He's feeling great."

Up next

Jordan Zimmermann will make his second spring start Saturday (1:05 p.m. ET, Gameday Audio) when the Tigers host the Rays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Chris Archer is scheduled to pitch for Tampa Bay.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Chad Huffman, Jairo Labourt